Alyssa Sandeen struggles with possible transplant rejection - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Alyssa Sandeen struggles with possible heart transplant rejection

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In 1998, Alyssa Sandeen made national headlines for being one of the youngest patients to survive a heart transplant, but now she is fighting for her life once more.

Family members confirmed that Sandeen is currently in a medically induced coma at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, where she may be dealing with the rejection of the donor heart she received more than 14 years ago.

"It's been pretty tough," said Holly Evans, Sandeen's aunt. "We've been down this road before."

Sandeen received the heart when she was just eight years old after her heart collapsed from cardiomyopathy. Doctors estimated she had only days to live, but they were able to find a donor match in the nick of time. 

Since then, Sandeen has been able to live a largely-normal life. She attended her prom and graduated from high school, but earlier this week, she could tell that something wasn't right.

"Such a beautiful young woman at 22 -- and to go through this from the age of eight, she's done it so courageously," Evans remarked.

Evans told FOX 9 news she finds it ironic that a girl with such a big heart would have her own fail so many times, explaining that doctors at the Mayo Clinic had to perform CPR on her for two and a half hours after she went into cardiac arrest twice during tests.

"Her heart, yesterday, was non-functioning," Evans said. "But today, we do see a slight blip of some activity. Hard to say that will continue, but it is promising. Any hope we'll take."

Doctors are keeping Sandeen on life support for now to give her heart a chance to heal.

Sandeen has recovered from a similar condition that emerged last year, but she can't stay on the heart and lung machine for more than a month and may need a second heart transplant to survive.

"We're on a limited window of opportunity for her heart to come back to life," Evans explained. "If it doesn't and she's not showing signs of being a viable candidate for a transplant, she may not be here."

One reason the family is so worried is that the cardiac arrest may have caused brain damage, which would mean that Sandeen would no longer be eligible to be on the transplant list.

Yet, Evans insists that Sandeen is a fighter who has beaten the odds many times before. She hopes the young woman who has gotten so many chances at life will get one more. So far, they're seeing positive signs. Sandeen is able to move her toes and squeeze her loved ones' hands.

 

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